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The Welcome Table: An Annual Online Thanksgiving Meal


[Melissa stands up, taps her fork against her glass, and clears her throat. The conversation around the table dies down, and she suddenly knows how Dumbledore feels as he delivers his Welcome-Back-to-Hogwarts speech. She considers, as always, growing a long white beard before next year’s meal.  Though we all know that she’ll never manage it.]

Welcome, everyone, to our annual pre-Thanksgiving online meal. Let’s just put it out there bluntly: sometimes the holidays are great, and sometimes they suck, but everyone deserves to have a nice meal around a table (even if it’s only a virtual one) where they feel comfortable and know that the other inhabitants at the table have their back.

For some people, this pre-meal is what gets them through their real meal later in the week. People have written that they’ve printed out this yearly post and comments and left the paper in their purse because it helped to have a tangible reminder that there were people out there who got it. Who weren’t going to ask them when they were going to hurry up and have children. Who weren’t going to cringe when someone spoke the name of a child they lost.

We are all so different. All of us. Around this table. But we have this one facet of our lives — and yes, even though it may be a big, overpowering one for you right now, it is only one facet of who you are — where we overlap: infertility or adoption or loss. And I am so thankful, so grateful, that I found all of you. Everyone needs a You-shaped space where they can be themselves. And that’s what I have here.

So every year, I ask people to bring a virtual dish to our meal. Place it in the comment section, explaining what you brought and why. And say anything else you need to say before sitting back down to enjoy the company. Update about where you are; your emotional state. We’re an international group, hailing from countries all around the world. So while Thanksgiving is an American tradition, I hope that everyone around the world feels as if they can participate. (Especially our Canadian neighbours who celebrated Thanksgiving weeks ago.) I’d love for your dish to come from your culture or country. Don’t worry about the contents on the table clashing.

So I am bringing again Mary McCartney’s English pea soup. I know, not exactly traditional Thanksgiving fare, but it’s warm and filling and it makes me happy. Plus I can make it ahead of time because it freezes beautifully. In the summer, I like salads. But cold weather calls for vegetable-based soups.  We’ve been eating a lot of this soup this fall.

So what did you bring and what do you want to say to the community?

And please, start eating as everyone is introducing their dish. We don’t want the food to get cold and there are so many of us at this table. Thank you so much for coming, and I’m going to carry the warmth of this meal with me for the rest of this week.


1 Charlotte { 11.24.15 at 8:31 am }

I can’t even tell you how much I love this post.
This year I am in a good emotional place…content and happy, crazy and busy, and also tired. But grateful and thankful and happy all the same. But also knowing I have some major decisions to make in the coming months, so that is weighing on the back of my mind.
I am bringing homemade lasagna to the table. It is meat-free, made with my grandmother’s homemade sauce recipe. It is sauce-y cheesey, gooey indulgent goodness. Thank you for hosting, Mel, and being so inclusive. I needed this this morning!

2 Carla { 11.24.15 at 8:47 am }

Charlotte’s description matches me perfectly right now! I am in a good place too, with some big changes coming as we try to work it so that my husband can be in school/mission work full time next year, and some potential big changes coming with my job. It is all exciting, but scary at the same time. So I’m going to try to just relax and enjoy the holidays with friends and family, and trust that next year will take care of itself—my worrying about it will not change a thing.
I started making bread this year–rolls, bagels, pizza dough–and it is great therapy. So I will bring some dinner rolls. Big, buttery, yeasty rolls that steam when you pull them apart. Not very exciting, but delicious!

3 Catwoman73 { 11.24.15 at 10:45 am }

I love this!
I am in a fantastic place right now. I feel like I have finally been able to move forward from all the years of dealing with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. Hubby and I are starting to feel connected again, and we are on a very exciting journey to declutter our lives- physically, emotionally and financially. We are making retirement plans (10 years to go for him, 12 for me!!!). It’s all very exciting, and I feel so fortunate to be able to think about such things with all that is happening in the world.
As a Canadian, I would love to bring some truly Canadian food to the table, but most traditionally Canadian dishes are so desperately unhealthy, I can’t bring myself to do it (poutine, anyone?). Instead, I will bring guacamole and chips (all homemade, of course), because we definitely need some good pre-dinner snacks. Maybe a few bottles of my father-in-law’s homemade red wine as well.

4 Ann Z { 11.24.15 at 11:03 am }

Thank you for this. I love the tradition. I’m also in a good space this year. I’m bringing my spiced cranberry sauce. I just love that it melds the sweet and the spicy and the sour and the bitter (and a little bit of booze) into something wonderful.

5 apluseffort { 11.24.15 at 11:34 am }

I wish our meal didn’t have to be virtual. I am bringing brussel sprouts, as I discovered and fell in love with them in the last year. They get a bad rap and shouldn’t – crispy and roasted with a little shaved Parmesan on top. I am in a weird place now as I simultaneously pursue three tracks that can’t all happen at once and are starting to all happen at once – I’ve been interviewing for new jobs since early summer, I’ve been working at becoming foster certified since last winter, and I sent in the documents for an endo surgical consult this fall. Eep.

6 loribeth { 11.24.15 at 12:30 pm }

I sense a theme here. 🙂 I too love this tradition & look forward to this post every year. 🙂 And I too am in a pretty good place at the moment. November has always been a hard month for me, partly because it was my due date (in 1998), partly because of work and partly because the weather is generally so crappy. :p I can’t do anything about the due date that never was — but it doesn’t hurt as much as it once did. And this year, the weather has been pretty good and I am no longer working, so (so far, at least) November has not sucked — certainly not as much as it once did. 🙂 There is hope!! 🙂

I have brought some award-winning ice wine from one of our great Niagara region wineries to share. 🙂 If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat — it’s sweet and goes great with dessert. 🙂

7 a { 11.24.15 at 12:58 pm }

I’m going to try slathering a turkey in mayonnaise and herbs this year, so let’s pretend it turned out really well and I’m bringing that. Sorry, apluseffort, nothing anyone can do to brussels sprouts can make them palatable to me.

I’m mildly offended today because I got kicked off an advisory board at work for “being too argumentative.” I kinda thought dissenting opinions were necessary to an advisory board. On the other hand, it’s hilarious, because I got kicked off of something that merely presented me with extra work and never any satisfaction at achieving a successful conclusion. By tomorrow, I will transition to being wholly amused, but I will totally carry a grudge. For the next 10-15 years, until I retire. Other than that, life is pretty good.

8 Ashley { 11.24.15 at 1:27 pm }

I’ve never participated in this tradition before but am already in love with it! What a wonderful idea!

I am three weeks shy of my first adoption, so I’d say I’m walking on air right now! I am adopting a teenager from the foster care system and we’ve been waiting a long time for the finalization to actually materialize. I was informed on Friday last week that our date is 12/9/15. We are very excited, as you can imagine. Infertility robbed me of so much and so many other “life” things have happened that I worried I would forget what happiness felt like, but thankfully I remembered. There are two smaller foster children living with me right now and their case is moving towards adoption, so 2016 might bring even more joy into my life.

So I am bringing a recipe that my nana taught me to make just as her mom taught her. It is a PA Dutch tradition, although the name does not really describe what it is – AP Cake. It’s a strange confection, not really cake and not really bread and therefore it is used as both a meal (usually breakfast) and desert or simply a treat whenever! It’s simple, with ingredients most people already have on hand and I love it best straight out of the oven! I made it when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, so I know it is quite versatile! Enjoy!

9 April { 11.24.15 at 3:15 pm }

This is always my favorite post. This year I’m in a really rough place. This summer brought dreams of adoption to a screeching halt and I’ve not yet come to grips with it. I know I will yet again spend Christmas at my cousin’s with her three kids under 6 and the questions of my family.

I’m bringing wine because I drink a lot of it at the holidays and my Grandma’s noodles. She always made them from scratch and you could feel the love she put into them. I miss her so much at this time of year.

10 Cristy { 11.24.15 at 3:40 pm }

I look forward to this tradition every year since I found this community and your blog, Mel. Thank you for hosting.

Grey and I have a tradition of making pumpkin pie, so this year I’m bringing one of these to the table. We split the duty for making these, with me preparing the crust and Grey making the filling.

I’m currently in a mixed place emotionally. On the one hand, I have the family I longed for. On the other, I’m still struggling with reconnecting with my parents, aunts and uncles and trying to find common ground for everyone else’s wants and desires. It’s hard to navigate and many days I feel I’m failing. But it also reminds me of how special what I have at home is.

11 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.24.15 at 4:31 pm }

I love gathering with my ALI peeps here each November, with you clinking the glass.

I’m bringing mashed sweet potatoes, made with ghee and coconut milk and greek yogurt. Healthy and hearty and earthy.

I’m grateful for you and the people joined by you.

12 Infertile Girl { 11.24.15 at 6:43 pm }

I don’t remember what I brought last year…(I’m pretty sure I participated) but this year I am bringing my famous gingerbread cookies. I make several dozen every year and they make the rounds at work, to friends and Christmas gatherings. I used to make them with my mom when I was younger, then I took them over completely. This year I have my baby daughter with me, though she can’t help yet I look forward to the tradition with her.

This time last year I was facing potentially another cancelled FET due to a cyst, and was having a rough year. It ended off great though, and my life has done a 360. Although I’m Canadian, and celebrated thanksgiving last month, I am extra thankful this year, so double celebrating seems fitting.

13 JustHeather { 11.25.15 at 1:27 am }

This is the first time in 16 years of living in Finland that I am throwing/hosting a Thanksgiving party, with my core group of friends here. I am extremely grateful that this is being pulled off, as I was ready to throw in the towel a couple of times when it was seeming impossible to get everyone together for a few hours on one day.
I know I’ll cry a bit today when thinking of and missing my mom (mostly), grandmas, family in the US and anyone else who is not with me here today. (I’m already crying.) But this year feels a bit different. I’m happy and thankful, truly.
I’m bringing my mom’s pesto torte (I never realized it is a “real” dish. It has always just been a recipe my mom gave me. I’ve never googled it before.) as always because it makes me feel close to her. And it’s super delish. Also, I can’t believe I haven’t attempted a thanksgiving before, the dishes were so easy to make and my house smelled wonderful yesterday as we made them.

14 SuzannaCatherine { 11.25.15 at 6:26 am }

This post and How to Get from Thanksgiving to Christmas When You’re Not in the Mood are great! I look forward to them each year and I’m never disappointed. Thanks again, Mel, for these lifelines.

This has been a difficult year. Last year, after several years of chronic kidney disease, I went into kidney failure and now go to dialysis three times a week. It’s a hard diagnosis to accept. There’s definitely a period of adjustment. I guess I’m still adjusting, but I am blessed to have a strong support system in the form of my son and his family.

Holidays, in general, are stressful! In order to cut back on a little of the stress of cooking, in 2014, we began a new tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving with our Church family. The Church provides the traditional Turkey and Ham and everyone who can brings a side dish. We will be taking my daughter-in-law’s yummy Sweet Potatoe casserole. All are invited. We have invited three close friends and it makes what could be a sad day of missing those, who for reasons of age or distance (or both), into a real Thanksgiving Day. ?

After reading all the comments, I have one suggestion. Could commenters include the recipie for their favorite dish? I can’t be the only one who would love to have the recipes of some of the dishes. Just a thought.

I hope everyone has a great day on Thursday!

15 Jess { 11.25.15 at 1:19 pm }

I love this post! I am in a much better place this year than last year, because last year I still was fighting a losing battle to become pregnant and I felt so lost and hopeless. This year we are waiting adoptive parents, with no clue when the waiting will end, just that we are on a countdown where every day is closer to the unknown date when we become parents. So it gives the holidays a bit of a more pleasant tone!

I am bringing Bourbon Yams, which I might have brought last year, but it’s just not Thanksgiving without them. They are tipsy yams, adult-only, because the bourbon doesn’t cook out. On purpose. It’s my version of my Dad’s recipe that he cribbed from someone else…I love the idea of adding the recipe (especially since I love roasted brussels sprouts but haven’t loved how mine have been coming out…so tips please, Apluseffort! 🙂
Peel, cube, and roast however many sweet potatoes you want, I do about 1 per person, more if I want leftovers (that won’t be as tipsy). Then mash ’em up in a pot with the following to taste: butter, maybe some heavy cream or half-and-half, a little brown sugar, cinnamon, a touch of cloves, a spoonful or so of dark molasses, maybe some nutmeg. Then, when they’re all smooth and creamy-ish and smell like pie filling, pour in some Jim Beam or other bourbon. How much is really up to you, but I generally do a generous pour, stir it up, then add a touch more. Don’t let it boil up, that ruins the fun. (Unless you want the taste without the kick.) Mmmm. Maybe a little vanilla, too. It’s a little different every year.

Happy Thanksgiving, I hope the holidays are kind to each and every one of you!

16 Sharon { 11.25.15 at 4:54 pm }

I’m bringing stuffing — my father’s recipe — because it’s my favorite Thanksgiving dish.

I hope everyone has a peaceful and relaxing holiday. (I know that can be a tall order for some!)

17 Heather { 11.26.15 at 8:02 am }

I’ll bring my vegetable bean mixture! Plant proteins are good for fertility!
Emotionally there are good parts and bad parts, I’m kind of waiting on a lot of things at the moment, but overall this has been a good year and I’m grateful.

18 Katherine { 11.26.15 at 2:27 pm }

I’m bringing pumpkin pie, just like I did last year. Because I make a wicked pumpkin pie and it’s warm and spicy and delicious and it reminds me of all the wonderfully cozy Thanksgivings I had in the US as a college student, and young adult and then finally a first-time mom.
I’m middle aged and live in the Middle East now, so Thanksgivings are very different. We don’t celebrate, it’s just a regular day, and I miss it so.
But this year has been good for me. I write this as I am nursing my surprise 3-month old baby, the little boy who completes my family and who’s named after a brother that left is too soon. It’s been a delicious year — though all my pregnancies (it was my seventh!) were physically easy on me, this time it was also relatively stress-free, for a change. I even got the labor I wanted — the cherry that topped it all off. And 3 months post partum, depression has not (yet at least) shown its ugly head, like it did the other two times.
There’s work to be done — I have yet to figure out what I’m going to be when I grow up; I’m not quite the mom I’d like to be; my marriage needs repair and maintenance; we just moved a month ago and my house is still a work in progress. But for the first time in while, I’m beginning to trust that things will be mostly ok.

19 Kasey { 11.27.15 at 9:18 am }

A bit late – but the comment has been in my head… I’d bring mashed potatoes, the way I make them with entirely too much butter (yes according to my husbands family you can use too much) and I’ll share, but it’s entirely possible I eat an entire bowl of this comfort food myself. It hit me Wednesday that I’ve been in a weird place about holidays, especially Thanksgiving since I was pregnant the second time. I’m overwhelmed with school and life and kids, and while I truly love love love holidays and Thanksgiving, hosting each year is just one more thing I have to do. With two little kids and a tiny apartment it’s just too much. Unfortunately MIL and BIL have smaller apartments than us – that are not kid friendly, so host we do. I don’t even want to unplug. I want to disengage and not even be there. One day this funk will pass.
PS. Since I’m writing this late, the day was fine. As relaxing as these things can be. And we will do it again at Christmas.
PPS. I like reading everyone’s posts. All in so many different places.
PPPS. If you drink alcohol, I’ve found that there is really nothing better than hot apple cider with a shot or two of bourbon.

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